Exchange with Maddox

Maddox, of The Best Page in the Universe fame, shared his opinion on the recent mass shooting, blaming mental illness rather than any other factor:

100% of gun massacres occur by people with mental illness. If you disagree with that statement, be prepared to make the case that there are some rational, cool-headed people who, after thinking clearly and weighing the pros and cons, decide to commit mass killings. There aren’t. Rather than focusing our efforts on demonizing society, guns, gender or family, we should focus our efforts on getting people with mental illness the help they need. The fact that there’s stigma associated with receiving mental health care is a problem. If you know someone in need, reach out and try to get them help. Trying to rationalize an irrational act is futile. Rational people don’t go on shooting rampages.

My response:

Maddox, you are half right and half dead wrong.

I will NOT make the case that there are “some rational, cool-headed people who … decide to commit mass killings” because that is a strawman. The picture you paint of those with MI and those of this description fails to capture a wide range of other issues at play that can incite action without a mental illness.

If you aren’t a psychologist, I highly recommend you listen and adhere to their definition and not plaster any severely aberrant behavior that is hard to understand as mental illness.

When you do this, you close the door to any discussion of the role sexism and misogyny plays in our society and how it pushed him over the edge. You ignore the fact that he WAS seeing a therapist and yet still did this.

Of course I agree that mental illness should not be stigmatized and resources should be available for those who need help. But making that the only issue, and only talking about it in the wake of violent tragedy, is very counterproductive.

…Little did I remember that I’m actually friends with Maddox on Facebook. So he replied:

I specifically wrote this status because people were using this tragedy to further an extreme/sexist agenda. He was also a racist, but I don’t see nearly as much stink being made about that. There are lots of sexist men (and women), some of them are misandrists, and some misogynists. Yet very few of them go on gun rampages. The Sikh temple shootings in 2012 were done by a white supremacist, yet very few white supremacists go on shooting sprees. Very few people of any category go on shooting sprees. The only thing these shooters have in common is they all suffer from some form of mental illness. The “big devil” theory is just a tool people use to push an agenda. The “big devil” in Columbine was video games. The big devil in Sandy Hook was the AR15 assault rifle. And the big devil today is misogyny. But until you’re able to show a causal relationship between big devil and mass shootings, there’s a tremendous amount of evidence that the big devil isn’t the culprit. Namely, every single person who belongs to the “big devil” group who doesn’t go on a shooting rampage. For game player who goes on a mass shooting, there are hundreds of millions who don’t. It shifts blame away from the culprit and onto society. It takes the focus away from the problem and the best hope for a solution: greater mental health care.

And the final part of our exchange so far is my response:

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

People were looking at the motivations for this killer’s actions in order to prevent it. The “agenda” of feminists, for example, is in part to prevent misogyny from having such a strong influence that it can push someone to kill.

You are sorely mistaken to think that just branding killers with mental illness and advocating for acceptance and help for those who are mentally ill covers the entirety of what causes these tragedies. Your armchair diagnoses of mental illness are naive, ill-informed, and harmful. I notice in your response I see no concession that you aren’t a psychologist who has done the research or has the education to make demonstrative statements like your original post. Nor have you indicated a desire to listen to ones that are speaking on this issue.

Let’s take your original point. “Make the case that there are some rational, cool-headed people who, after thinking clearly and weighing the pros and cons, decide to commit mass killings.”

Rodger was clearly analytical and justified his actions completely through the lens with which he viewed the world. Lenses which we all gain and lose through our lives. The fact that he felt entitled to women, or that he felt the need to prove himself an alpha-male, those are ABSOLUTELY a product of a sexist, patriarchal society and culture that reinforced those ideas. Spaces existed where he felt supported to continue to develop and let fester his ideology that eventually resulted in his actions.

That Is Not Necessarily Mental Illness. That is succumbing to one of many narratives out there and taking it way, way, way too far. And yet you want to ignore? deny? this extremely obvious basis of misogyny? For which thousands, millions of women are sharing their side of on Twitter with #YesAllWomen?

You’re treating all ideologies as equal, and that’s simply naive. Surely you can recognize that Buddhism has a lower chance of leading to violence than misogyny. One is peaceful and contemplative. One is hate, entitlement, and dehumanization. That last one makes the value of human life go down, making the proclivity to violence a shorter leap, does it not?

Now, do I honestly need to show you statistics of victimization rates of rape or assault or abuse for Man->Woman versus Woman->Man? Even mentioning misandry in this conversation is misleading and a tacit false equivalency. I don’t understand how if you’re aware of these facts that you can be unconvinced that misogyny kills. It does all the time but doesn’t get attention like this concentrated massacre.

Furthermore, can we turn the logic on your premise for a second? Surely you’re aware that tens of millions of people in the US have a mental illness and are peaceful, nonviolent. How does that fit with your trend of contrasting it to gaming, for example? Again, I am All In Favor of erasing the stigma of mental illness. But you do it a disservice by advocating for it in this way. You can’t just Assert MI on killers and claim it’s the primary cause.

Drawing the line at Rational vs. Mental Illness is idiotic. Every one of us has irrational tendencies in areas of our lives and to varying degrees. If we are all mentally ill, the term has no meaning.

Only after re-reading my original post did I realize I argued something I said I wasn’t going to argue. Oh well. I’m curious to see if he’ll respond. Obviously I’m doubtful I’ll make a dent, as that never happens with any online argument, especially not when one’s opponent has a character of ultimate arrogance to uphold. But as always it’s about the audience, and maybe nudging someone slightly along after reflecting upon the exchange later.

Maddox replied again:

Are you seriously disputing the fact that he had mental illness? “It is very, very apparent that he was severely mentally disturbed.” -Sheriff Bill Brown

How many public mass shootings must someone do to convince you of a disorder? And no, I’m not just being rhetorical here, give me a number. That number for me is any.

Yes, he was a misogynist. So? Lots of misogynists exist and very few of them go on gun rampages. Lots of white supremacists exist too, and very few of them go on gun rampages as well. People are allowed to believe whatever they want in this country. You can’t regulate thought. And I’m not saying that misogyny and racism isn’t a problem, but you’re being disingenuous by making this a feminist issue. Yes, he was sexist, but he was also a racist. Nobody is talking about that.

Yes, he “felt entitled to women,” but he grew up the son of a multi-millionaire, driving a $40,000 car, taking first class flights from London to Los Angeles and seeing private Katie Perry concerts. He was never told “no” by his parents, so he likely felt entitled to everything. Again, that doesn’t mean all entitled people are the devil. Lots of entitled people don’t go on killing sprees. The only thing that’s different here is that he had a mental disorder. It’s time for you to stop promoting your pet cause and start promoting mental health. I know you think it’s admirable and you get a pat on your back for being an ally or whatever label-of-the-week the social justice warriors are promoting. And I know you have good intentions. Stop wasting your energy on pushing an agenda. This kid had a mental illness. It wasn’t the fault of the PUA community, patriarchy, men, the movie “Neighbors,” video games, guns or whatever the hell else people are trying to demonize. Culpability had to do with a number of factors in his environment, sure, but mostly his mental disorder.

That’s not to say that all people with mental disorders are violent, but all people who go on gun rampages do have mental disorders. A gun rampage by definition is an irrational act which has no justification, even if you think he justified it to himself. Stop giving credence to his actions.

Of course people can believe what they want to believe. But if we as a society present a more positive, accepting culture, the fringe beliefs of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, slowly fade away. They become less prominent, more scrutinized, and therefore less likely to cause harm. That is the goal of many social movements.

Let’s zoom out a bit. You want trends for these mass shootings? How about white and male? Why is there a refusal in the public discourse to take seriously the fact that white men are the ones doing the vast majority of the massacres?

Toxic masculinity, combined with white privilege, seems a perfect candidate for the potential for violence. Bad forms of masculinity lead to a propensity for violence, and privilege breeds entitlement.

“[A]ll people who go on gun rampages do have mental disorders. A gun rampage by definition is an irrational act which has no justification.”

Yet again, show me a preponderance of psychologists who agree with that first sentence, and then we can talk about that. For the second sentence, again, just because something is irrational doesn’t mean it has to be the product of a mental illness. That’s a narrow view of rationality and an overly broad view of MI.

2 thoughts on “Exchange with Maddox

  1. lordmishmash

    He’s perfectly right though, isn’t he? You’re just pushing an agenda, while he is thinking more or less detached from the issue, that’s probably because he really doesn’t give a shit either way.

    You should try that sometimes. You know, to not be so blatantly biased? Thank you.

    1. Ross Post author

      Woah! I’m a bit overwhelmed at the amount of substance in that comment! You’ve got so many examples illustrating your point to really drive home the message, after all.


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